Dozens of people were wounded in clashes Friday over Israel’s entry restrictions on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, as protests against far-right Israelis’ visits to the holy site continued for the sixth day.
Earlier Friday, Israel called up about 800 Border Police officers in response to the escalating tensions in Jerusalem, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank held solidarity protests against restrictions on Palestinian worshippers entering the site. Dozens of Palestinians and three Israeli police officers were injured, Haaretz said.
The number of non-Muslims visiting the site increases during Jewish holidays, and hundreds of Israelis — including members of far-right groups who advocate erecting a Jewish temple on the grounds — have visited Al-Aqsa compound this week to celebrate the Jewish New Year.
Palestinian protesters fear Israel will seek to change the rules governing the site, giving Jewish groups more access and putting more restrictions on Palestinian access. The site is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Palestinians on Friday organized protests against such restrictions, Palestinian news website Maan News reported.
Dozens of Palestinians were injured when Israeli security forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at protesters in West Bank cities — including Silwad, Ramallah, Kafr Qaddum, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem and Qalqilia — Maan reported.
An Israeli army spokeswoman would not comment on the number of injuries but said clashes were continuing in the West Bank.
Israeli officials said the calling up of security force reservists and newly announced policies against Palestinians who throw stones at Israeli forces would help calm tensions.
“Border Police officers have a great deal of experience and success in dealing with violent enemy activity. Stationing a border patrol company in the capital will help restore order quickly,” Haaretz quoted Tzahi Hanegbi, a member of the Israeli Knesset as saying.
Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital. East Jerusalem, which has a majority Palestinian population, is considered occupied territory under international law.
Netanyahu said earlier this month that Israel was considering giving its armed forces a freer hand to shoot at stone throwers. This week, after the death of an Israeli driver who lost control of his car after apparently being hit by stones in Jerusalem on Sunday, Netanyahu pledged to modify the rules of engagement and establish “significant fines” for minors who throw stones.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the aggression against Al-Aqsa protesters, saying this week that the mosque is a “red line” and that “we will not allow attacks against our holy places."
He was referring to actions by Israeli security forces meant to remove Palestinian protesters who had barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa to protest entry restrictions.
Israeli police used tear gas, smoke bombs and various forms of ammunition to remove the demonstrators — causing significant damage to the site, witnesses said.